The dissolution of everything that we know of as the body politic

When we began Foreign Bodies, the idea that the movement of peoples across territories was to become a defining political question, that it would motivate political movements and mobs, that it would become a mechanism through which different elites would build a political base to take power in the state, was marginal. It was not yet front page news, nor had it become the political cliché that it is now, refugee crisis, a meaningless phrase that provokes feelings of compassion or loathing without any real sense of the entities that comprise the so-called crisis, so that the crisis is never really born, never works the transformation that it ought to – the dissolution of everything we know of as the body politic at present and the creation of a new body politic, as well as new bodies and new politics. 1)There are a multitude of individuals and communities for whom the reality of this migration is experienced with all of its nuances, with all the beauty, wonder, awe, discomfort and fear that is provoked by the actual physical experience of another’s body. There are the migrants themselves, and there are those individuals and organizations who have moved themselves to the sites where help is needed, giving food and medical care, assisting people to overcome state control wherever possible. And there are those well within the confines of the nation state who provide spaces and advocacy for those whose journeys are complete (for now). I feel that these people experience what is happening not through the distancing cliché of “migration crisis”, but as a lived reality.

Where can we point the finger for this failure – surely it belongs with the management of this crisis, as if the state understands itself not as a vehicle for transporting human civilisation into something more humane and more civilised, but as a bureaucracy dedicated to the preservation of the threads of the status quo. This bureaucracy, which should be marginal and transitory, has filled the vacuum left by the aspiration in an earlier stage of the nation for a true social state, one in which labor rights and welfare were guaranteed by the state. This bureaucracy exists only to see that the institutions themselves, empty as they are of any political content beyond the continuation and, against all indications of economic reality, the necessary expansion of the capitalist project.

As is the case, always and inevitably, the bureaucratic formations which are designed for administering the periphery of the nation state, as in the case of imperialism, return to the center as well, as in the case of nazism, fascism and neoliberalism.

So Foreign Bodies is about those bodies which view the national border the same way a herd of goats view a seemingly impossible precipice, a dangerous inconvenience to be overcome by nimble feet and an act of will. It is about their experience once they cross this precipice, the violence they receive at the hands of mob, police and border security, the drudgery that their lives can descend into once they become administrative subjects. It is also about those non-migrating bodies 2)Of course, every body is a migrating body, whether actually-migrating, potentially-migrating, or historically-migrating. I am a refugee insofar as my grandfather was. I am a foreigner in Germany, though a privileged one, and yet I have “arrived” as it were in my home of Berlin, therefore I am both a migrating body and a non-migrating body. who live across the precipice, how they are shaped by their anxieties of the outside, how the administration of those other alien bodies makes invisible the work that the state performs on their own bodies, cells and molecules. Foreign Bodies is about the potential bodies that we might inhabit: physical bodies, political bodies, that are not shaped by paranoia and neuroses. – AT

Notes   [ + ]

1. There are a multitude of individuals and communities for whom the reality of this migration is experienced with all of its nuances, with all the beauty, wonder, awe, discomfort and fear that is provoked by the actual physical experience of another’s body. There are the migrants themselves, and there are those individuals and organizations who have moved themselves to the sites where help is needed, giving food and medical care, assisting people to overcome state control wherever possible. And there are those well within the confines of the nation state who provide spaces and advocacy for those whose journeys are complete (for now). I feel that these people experience what is happening not through the distancing cliché of “migration crisis”, but as a lived reality.
2. Of course, every body is a migrating body, whether actually-migrating, potentially-migrating, or historically-migrating. I am a refugee insofar as my grandfather was. I am a foreigner in Germany, though a privileged one, and yet I have “arrived” as it were in my home of Berlin, therefore I am both a migrating body and a non-migrating body.

After the crisis

image

Hewas about the third person we approached just outside the gate of the Bicske open refugee camp on the outskirts of Budapest. He placed his Tesco shopping bags on the ground, and, with little prompting, began to tell us his story as if he had a thousand times before. When we were last in Budapest in August, thousands of migrants had camped at Keleti railway station as they attempted to board trains to Austria. A few months later and we had traveled to this scrubby wasteland to talk to someone.

He was Pakistani, he had traveled to send money home to his wife and family. He spoke in clusters of two to three words. His brother. His brother. Train Austria. Dead. Five dead. One year. He took out his phone and began scrolling through the photographs as he ranged over the details of his journey.

He said he had spent seven years in Greece without papers, that his brother had spent seven days. Then they made their way to Budapest. They waited at Keleti station overnight, then 2000 people boarded a train which stopped at Biscke station. Two days and one night they waited on the train without food or water before people ran out onto the tracks. There was some kind of incident with his brother and the police and then he hit his head on a stone, or had a heart attack,
and died.

He fell into a silence as his fingers continued scrolling over the screen of his phone. There were photos from the Bicske station, police lines. “Police angry” he said. His eyes carried despondency. His hands were cracked, and weary. While his brother’s body was sent back “in a box, a big box” to Pakistan, paid for by the Pakistani embassy, he had nowhere to go. After three months waiting at the camp in Bicske the authorities gave him a “negative result”, he would not be getting papers. No compensation from the Hungarian State.

He reached a photo of his brother lying in a mortuary. The photo was blurry as if the photographer could not steady their hand. Another photo: his brother lying in a garbage bag on a bed of stones and straw by the railway track – dead eyes, mouth slightly open. What must it have been like to take that photo, that horrible moment frozen in time?

Time moves so fast, there are no more migrants camped at Keleti railway station, but for this man, without family, without papers, the present must seem an eternity.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugee-crisis-man-who-died-at-hungarian-train-station-was-running-away-from-police-10487986.html